The Link Between Alcohol and Unwanted Weight Gain
Updated: Aug 31
Could alcohol be the cause of my excess body fat? The simple answer–yes. Many popular mixed drinks and ready-to-go beverages are loaded with processed sugars; margaritas, daiquiris and even beer! While companies like White Claw and Truly advertise themselves as the “healthier” alternatives because they contain only 2 grams of sugar, they’re forgetting to mention that the biggest problem of all isn’t in the sugar content but the ethanol alcohol itself.
When we consume alcohol, our metabolism is negatively affected, which can play a major role in weight gain if you’re not paying attention. Essentially, when we drink our body stops using other sources of energy like lipids and carbs and focuses on using the alcohol as it’s number one source of energy. Since alcohol can’t be stored by the body (this is why our Blood Alcohol Level increases as we drink) it then becomes the number one fuel source, leaving everything else to be used later or stored as fat.
Alcohol also tends to affect our judgment calls, in general, but specifically with food. Whether it’s a late night pizza or a greasy morning hangover cure, alcohol lowers our inhibitions and can lead us to poor decision making when it comes to food. When you begin to add up all the late night snacking and weekend hangover food our caloric intake increases. And if you aren’t burning off what you’re eating with regular exercise and movement you may be gaining weight unintentionally. As we age, it also gets harder for us to lose weight as our metabolism naturally begins to slow down.
The best thing you can do for your body is be mindful of what you consume– whether that’s food or beverages. Our nutrition plays a major role in our physical and emotional wellbeing and when we drink we can cause imbalances in our hormones, digestive systems and gut bacteria, which according to DrinkAware.ie, can lead to:
Reduced health of the gums and teeth with an increased risk of cavities and erosion of the enamel
It can cause heartburn and gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD)
It can cause gastritis (inflammation of the stomach) and gastric and duodenal ulcers
It can damage the liver leading to a condition known as cirrhosis, where the liver is irreversibly damaged and does not work properly anymore
It can damage the pancreas gland, which is vital for production of insulin and some important digestive enzymes
It can lead to a thing called small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). This can lead to unpleasant symptoms of bloating, abdominal cramps, excessive wind/gas and diarrhea
Alcohol can have a significant negative effect on the healthy bacteria in our colon, the so-called gut microbiome. We have over 50 trillion bacteria making up the gut microbiome, and chronic alcohol intake reduces the variety and number of different species of bacteria in our gut.
Alcohol is high in calories and this can contribute to weight gain, particularly weight gain around the abdomen.
If you’re ready to cutback your alcohol intake and approach a healthier lifestyle, here are some tips to jump start your journey:
Stay within the recommended low risk guidelines for drinking alcohol (14 or less drinks per week for men, 7 or less drinks per week for women by CDC Guidelines)
Alternate between water and your beverage when drinking alcohol
Have at least 2-3 alcohol-free days to allow your system to regenerate
Alternate with no or low alcoholic beverages
Have a regular movement/exercise practice
Set a weekly intake limit of how many drinks you want to consume
Try a 30 Day Dry Challenge or Alcohol-Free Month